MysteryPeople Spy Fiction Pick: THE UNFORTUNATE ENGLISHMAN by John Lawton

John Lawton is internationally known for his masterful historical spy novels, and joins us this evening, September 20th, at 7 PM for our Noir at the Bar at Threadgill’s, an evening of readings from our favorite authors while drinking some favorite brews. John Lawton will be joined by fellow Brit Zoe Sharp and Americans Rick Ollerman, Mike McCrary and Jesse Sublett.

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

9780802123992Spy fiction, while excellent in the hands of those who’ve lived the secretive professions they explore in their tales of espionage, can benefit from the same hindsight (and declassified documents) that bring clarity to the history books. I appreciate the authenticity brought to spy fiction by those with personal espionage experience, yet I feel just as impressed with those who bring this shadow world to life through research and creating powerful characters.

Such is the case with John Lawton, whose gritty espionage thrillers perfectly evoke Cold War politics and carry on the legacy of the early spy fiction masters. First known for his Frederick Troy novels, a historical series set during WWII, Lawton has written several acclaimed stand-alones. He is now two books in to his new Joe Wilderness series, which unlike his previous series, features a working class character comfortable on both sides of the law (and both sides of the Berlin Wall).

As we move further away from the complexities of the Cold War, we can embrace the clear-eyed, cynical spies, bumbling bosses, and exploited networks associated with John le Carre while still glorying in the honeypots and gadgets of Fleming. John Lawton’s latest, The Unfortunate Englishman, begins in 1963 with the aftermath of a deadly accident in a Berlin Tunnel. Wilderness has failed in his attempt to smuggle a nuclear physicist to the West and his aristocratic father-in-law, who also happens to be his boss, springs him from a Berlin jail and assigns him several new, complex missions.

Meanwhile, a fumbling scientist gets recruited to scope out silo facilities while on an official trade mission to purchase rare metals. He immediately steps beyond the bounds of his instructions, excited to play spy with a tiny camera and too repressed to detect the true motivations behind a Soviet agent’s attempt to seduce him. It’s up to Joe Wilderness to head back to Berlin to tie up the young spy’s loose ends and distinguish between ineptitude, corruption and betrayal, while he and his colleagues attempt to discover Khrushchev’s larger plan to divide Berlin permanently.

Like Le Carre and Joseph Kanon before him, Lawton brilliantly captures one of the most complex cities of the world at its most divided time. I highly recommend reading the series, and those who come to our Noir at the Bar event at Threadgill’s South (tonight at 7 PM) should find his reading to be a perfect match between accent and character.

You can find copies of Lawton’s latest on our shelves and via, or for sale at Noir at the Bar at Threadgill’s South. John Lawton will be joined by fellow Brit Zoe Sharp and Americans Rick Ollerman, Mike McCrary and Jesse Sublett. We’ll have copies of each author’s latest for sale and tons of giveaways – we guarantee, if you want a book to take home, you’ll have one by the end of the night! 

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